Recently I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While wandering up and down Ocean Boulevard I noticed something interesting- the vast majority of people were using their smartphone as their main camera, and the vast majority of those people were using the iPhone. Sure, there were some touristy looking people with very costly DSLRs hanging around their necks, but overall, I was standing in the midst of a paradigm shift.
I brought the family Sony Cybershot that I purchased a few years ago with us on the trip. Amazingly, it was never taken out of its bag. The other amazing thing, is the fact that the iPhone 4S’ camera sensor has a greater megapixel count at 8MP compared to the Cybershot’s 7.1MP. Granted, megapixels aren’t the only thing that leads to greater technical quality of a photo, but it doesn’t hurt.
Overall, despite the megapixel disparity, the Cybershot takes a better photo. But that doesn’t matter. The reason this is even a topic of discussion, is the fact that the camera on your phone, is more convenient than a standalone camera. Look no further than the iPhone’s cannibalization of iPods. The iPhone can do everything a standalone iPod can do, consolidated into one device that does more things than play music. In turn, iPod sales are shrinking. I think this is what is happening to cameras, both of the video and still variety. Modern phones are eating into camera market, as they are other markets.
So, are we sacrificing quality for the sake of convenience? A few years ago, I would argued that we were. A 2MP camera on the iPhone and iPhone 3G just wasn’t going to cut it, even for the most casual of users. These days, it is an entirely different matter. These new camera modules, as in the case of the iPhone 4S, can shoot 1080p HD video, and 8MP photos. Sure, the iPhones photo quality begins to break down in lower-light conditions, and there is no moving lens, but overall the device works great as a point-and-shoot replacement. Just take a look at some of the photos I took on the trip:
Nothing particularly great, but they are memories of an excellent time.
I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is the majority of the public. The mass market merely wants something to quickly capture memories, and really not much more. Smartphone cameras do a great job of filling that roll. After all, we always have our phones near us, and as the trite saying goes: The best camera is the one you have with you. Today it is more relevant than ever, and we don’t even have to sacrifice that much quality for the convenience.